Quit smoking: Your heart will thank you
March 12th, 2013
04:01 PM ET

Quit smoking: Your heart will thank you

Cigarette smoking increases your heart rate, narrows the walls of your blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to your system, among other things. That’s why smoking is considered a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, obesity is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And most smokers gain between 6 and 13 pounds in the six months after they quit, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The benefits of quitting smoking are well known. “Cigarette smoking has short- and long-term cardiovascular effects that are reversible shortly after cessation,” according to the study authors.

But the researchers wanted to know if the weight gain following smoking cessation would counteract the positive effects quitting has on your cardiovascular system.

The study

The researchers analyzed data from the Framingham Offspring Study, which included more than 3,200 people. Information from the study participants was collected every four years between 1984 and 2011.

For the current study, researchers first divided up the 27 years of data into four “mini-studies,” explained lead author Carole Clair in an e-mail. Each mini study had a time span of about 6 years. The researchers then recorded the participants’ weight at the beginning and end of each mini study, and classified the participants into one of four categories: smoker, recent quitter, long-term quitter or non-smoker.

Because the data they used was collected every four years, the researchers didn’t know exactly when their study participants’ quit smoking, Clair said. So a recent quitter was defined as someone who reported smoking at one data collection point and not at the next. A long-term quitter was someone who reported not smoking at two consecutive data collection points.

The researchers then looked at each mini study to see if participants had a “CVD event,” such as coronary heart disease, angina, stroke or congestive heart failure.

The results

The median weight gain for recent quitters over a four-year period was about 6 pounds. Despite this, researchers found quitters had a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Recent smokers who quit were about 53% less likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who continued to smoke, Clair said. Long-term quitters had a 54% lower risk, despite weight gain.

These results applied to only those in the study without diabetes. While the researchers also looked at data for people WITH diabetes, they did not find a significant association between quitting smoking and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Clair believes the study sample was too small and that more people would reveal results similar to the non-diabetic results.


The smoking data in the Framingham study was self-reported, so participants’ could have fudged the truth on their smoking habits. And as mentioned earlier, the exact time period for when participants’ quit smoking was undetermined.

The study also did not capture any relapses that the smokers may have had. “Smokers generally need several attempts before successfully quitting,” the study authors wrote.

One other limitation to the study is its lack of diversity – the majority of the participants were white, so the authors aren’t sure if their results would translate to a wider population.

The takeaway

People who quit smoking can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Period.

“The message of this study is that weight gain following smoking cessation does not offset the benefits of smoking cessation on cardiovascular diseases,” Clair said. “Doctors should advise all their patients to quit smoking.”

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. SixDegrees

    It's always nice to have some actual numbers to back up claims and common sense. But did anyone ever think that NOT quitting smoking was a GOOD idea?

    March 12, 2013 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Scott

    ...and your point is...?

    March 12, 2013 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Steve

    I'm glad I found this out. Now I have a reason to quit smoking.

    March 12, 2013 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. What

    Wait, when did smoking become unhealthy?

    March 12, 2013 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Pete

    Well you know there was that one lady somewhere at some point in time who smoked and lived to be a hundred. This obviously proves that every study is a lie and I'm fine.

    - That guy (You've probably met him before)

    March 13, 2013 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ro

    I quit just in case.

    March 13, 2013 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sozy

    After smoking since the age of 15, (18 years) I quit cold turkey on my 33rd birthday. That was more than 14 months ago and eventhough I notice that exercise and other physical activities are easier to achieve, my weight has skyrocketed. I have gained between 20 and 25 pounds and no ammount of exercise or diet is helping me lose the weight. My doctor told me I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. My metabolism simply shifted gears after I stopped smoking. I am dedicated to get in shape and slim down before my 35th birthday but its proving more tedious and laborious than giving up the cigarettes which I loved but gave up completely on my first try!

    March 13, 2013 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. bobaloo55

    Is that why the mummies all had heart disease because they smoked ? NOPE there was no tobacco back then,but there was ALCOHOL AND FATTY FOODS.So that blows the smoking Bull Lies right out the window,Stop Lying

    March 13, 2013 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. bobaloo55

    Tell the truth once in a while,ITS ALCOHOL killing people NOT SMOKERS nor passive smoke.........

    March 13, 2013 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. bobaloo55

    Fatty arteries may not just be a curse of modern unhealthy lifestyles, say researchers who used scans to look at the heart health of mummies.

    A study in The Lancet of 137 mummies up to 4,000 years old found a third had signs of atherosclerosis.

    Most people associate the disease, which leads to heart attacks and strokes, with modern lifestyle factors such as smoking and obesity.

    But the findings may suggest a more basic human pre-disposition.

    Previous studies have uncovered atherosclerosis in a significant number of Egyptian mummies but it had been speculated that they would have come from a higher social class and may have had luxurious diets high in saturated fat.

    March 13, 2013 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. bobaloo55

    "Her diet was significantly healthier than ours. She would have eaten fruit and vegetables – and fish were plentiful in the Nile at that time.

    "The food would have been organic – and there were no trans-fats or tobacco available then.

    "Yet, she had these blockages. This suggests to us that there's a missing risk factor for heart disease – something that causes it that we don't yet know enough about."

    The researchers say the findings should not detract from the importance of messages about healthy diet and lifestyle.

    March 13, 2013 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Timmy Suckle

    We actually want you people to die really fast without using up health care resources. I kissed my way up to VP at a health insurance company. Now I take over $600,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easy to be fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
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    March 13, 2013 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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  14. Chris Keys

    Quitting smoking is always difficult, but it's for the greater good of your health. I am aware of many strong smokers who go through 2-3 packs a day. Given the opportunity I always recommended them to switch to electronic cigarettes. They have many benefits such as no tar or tobacco, its legal to smoke anywhere and it saves you 60-75% on monyey compared to traditional cigarettes. Sites like E-Lites have great starter kits.


    March 18, 2013 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. agalag

    Please, don't think I'm bragging or trying to sound like a reformed smoker, because I could smoke one right now. Anyway, I haven't had one puff of a regular cigarette since October. I bought one of those e-cigs. It worked really well for me. I got the nicotine I needed and it was awesome, especially in the car. Blucigs for one, has great flavors. This satisfied that oral fixation while driving and I found that I needed it less and less. At home it was nice to "smoke" in the house. All it is, is vapor, so you and the air around you doesn't smell like cigarettes. No more stinky clothes, house, car, etc. It's great! Listen, I'm 55 y.o. and I've smoked a pack a day for about 30 years. I got sick of going out in the Winter to smoke at work, smoking in the rain, paying $9.00 a pack. It got to be too much for me, so that's what I did, and hopefully I can stop forever. If I fail though, I will grab an e-cig before I'll ever buy another pack of real cigs. Good luck to all of you trying to quit. Smoke weed, it's cheaper!

    March 20, 2013 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. jstatz

    it would be rather difficult for a doctor to study the heart health of a mummmy. In the mummification process, all the organs, including the heart and brain are removed from the body. If you must smoke, as I do, try the ecigs. there are dozens of different kinds out there. You still get the nicotine, but not the additives and carcinogens as in a real ciggarette.

    March 22, 2013 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. scott

    I had a Heart attack quit smoking for 2 years and gained 43 pounds , I know a lot of people who have gained even more so that 6 lbs figure I wouldn't say is the norm.....No doubt quitting improved my chances of survival...however What's worse carrying around 40+ pounds of visceral fat or smoking and in the end does it really matter,,,,I think you need to do what makes you happy on a side note I started smoking again and lost 26 lbs in 3 months......go figure,,at least I will die with a little enjoyment in my life....

    March 25, 2013 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Saniyah

    I dont smoke and I am ? years old!!!

    March 28, 2013 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Saniyah

    how old are you scott?

    March 28, 2013 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 10, 2013 at 02:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. My Smoke

    A very good article and study, definitely should help once people read this to gradually or immediately stop smoking.

    April 16, 2013 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DarkChocolateRedWine

    Tobacco is a killer and non smokers should not have to deal with second hand smoke. People need to quit or find a better alternative.


    June 20, 2013 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I know quiting immediately is not too easy task in that case one can switch to e-cig from traditional cig and further quiting it completely is an ideal solution frankly speaking.I like to share a blog which gives review on different e-cig just have a look to it http://freeelectroniccigarettereview.net/

    August 28, 2013 at 05:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 22, 2014 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. amy

    Very true and agreed that quiting smoking will help you stay long and healthy life and will make you free from all kinds of heart and lung problems.


    January 2, 2015 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. tred

    been attempting to stop smoking then ecigs helps me now. thank you for the article anyway.

    June 13, 2015 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.